Alex Biedermann
Joƫlle Vuille

Abstract

In this paper we discuss the use of digital data by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in a recent case of attempted homicide. We use this case to examine drawbacks for the defense when the presentation of scientific evidence is partial, especially when the only perspective mentioned is that of the prosecution. We tackle this discussion at two distinct levels. First, we pursue an essentially non-technical presentation of the topic by drawing parallels between the court's summing up of the case and flawed patterns of reasoning commonly seen in other forensic disciplines, such as DNA and particle traces (e.g., gunshot residues). Then, we propose a formal analysis of the case, using elements of probability and graphical probability models, to justify our main claim that the partial presentation of digital evidence poses a risk to the administration of justice in that it keeps vital infor- mation from the defense. We will argue that such practice constitutes a violation of general principles of forensic interpretation as established by forensic science literature and cur- rent recommendations by forensic science interest groups (e.g., the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes). Finally, we posit that argument construction and analysis using formal methods can help replace digital evidence appropriately into context and thus support a sound evaluation of the evidence.

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